AZ Dem: Giffords Should Have ‘Right Of First Refusal’ On 2012 Senate Race

February 10, 2011 8:06 a.m.

There could be a significant delay before any Democratic candidates declare for the Senate seat of Republican Whip Jon Kyl, who has announced his retirement. As TPMDC has learned, for some time one of the top possible Dem candidates for the seat has been Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is in physical therapy after she was shot in the head during a constituent event last month.

A Democratic source in Arizona told us that possible candidates for the seat include Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, former Reps. Harry Mitchell and Ann Kirkpatrick (who were defeated in the 2010 Republican wave), and 2010 candidate for attorney general Felecia Rotellini. Interestingly, the source said there had not been indications that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who was previously the state’s two-term governor, might run.

However, the source said, Giffords had long been viewed as a top-tier candidate to either challenge Kyl or run for an open seat, before the events in January. “In our view, she ought to have the right of first refusal,” the source said, “and hopefully others will allow her the space and time to recover and make that decision.”The source said that other Democrats could potentially begin putting campaigns together — lining up pollsters and other staff, gathering support, etc. — but formal announcements could be a while.

“Let’s say Gabby continues at this amazing clip of recovery,” the source said, “and she’s really just dealing with motor skills rather than cognitive skills. Maybe she’s able to make a decision by summer. That’s not really too late to make a decision.”

“In the view of a lot of Democrats out here, she’s still at the top of the list,” the source added. “She was the best fundraiser, best campaigner, and probably the most respected Democrat in Arizona, before any of this other stuff that made her famous.”

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